Book: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

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“Do You Really Want Us as an Enemy?”


Early in March 2001, an Acehnese rebel commander known as Abu Jack (“Father of Jack,” in Arabic) telephoned Ron Wilson, a Texas A&M graduate who ran ExxonMobil’s operations in Indonesia. The time had arrived, the caller said, for the corporation to make payments to his separatist guerrilla force. Other oil and gas companies paid for the right to operate in the disputed province of Aceh, Abu Jack claimed. “So must ExxonMobil” was the essence of his message.

Wilson told Abu Jack—whose given name was Zackaria Ahmad—that he would take the demand to his supervisors. He hung up and soon called the United States embassy. He and other ExxonMobil officials disclosed that they had evidence that rebels were stockpiling heavy weapons near their facilities. They also declared they would never pay extortion money. “We are very close to closing down,” they reported.

When Lee Raymond acquired Mobil Oil, he also acquired a small war. It was a conflict that Mobil had been struggling with for decades. In any merger, the acquiring party often finds that the target company has a few problems that are worse than expected. Mobil’s role as a party in one of fractious Indonesia’s most violent separatist insurgencies quickly emerged as such a case. The war was emblematic of ExxonMobil’s dilemmas in the era of resource nationalism. The corporation’s options to acquire “equity” oil and gas outside of the United States, Europe, and Australia were increasingly limited to poor and weak states prone to internal violence. And in a period of Internet-enabled corporate responsibility campaigns, oil drilling in such countries seemed to attract guerrillas and human rights researchers in equal measure. Exxon had largely avoided the problems that arose from extracting oil and gas in the midst of small wars. The acquisition of Mobil’s far-flung properties—in Indonesia and West Africa, especially—would force Raymond and his management team to come to terms with issues they had little experience managing, including the conduct of security forces guarding ExxonMobil oil and gas fields and the geopolitics and diplomacy required to bring oil-related insurgencies to a negotiated end. Raymond’s one-size-fits-all Operations Integrity Management System was not especially well suited for the murky violence, corruption, and shifting politics Exxon now confronted in Indonesia.

Mobil had been present in the country for decades. During the 1970s, it had acquired access to a lucrative natural gas field on the northern tip of Sumatra, in the province of Aceh (pronounced Aah-chay). The latest round of separatist conflict had been under way for almost twenty-five years in a poor but lush seaside region of rain forests, mountains, rice paddies, and palm oil plantations. Aceh had been an independent Muslim kingdom ruled by sultans for more than four centuries. A Dutch colonial army landed in 1873; the invading commander died within a week and so did many of his men. The first Acehnese resistance war lasted forty years. It calmed and then resumed after Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. From the 1970s, Aceh’s struggle to control its own affairs revolved considerably around natural gas and the question of who should benefit from its sale. The gas lay buried in the Arun field, as it was known, beneath an expanse of fertile, palm-laden land along the northern mouth of the Strait of Malacca, near the town of Lhokseumawe.

A large share of the Arun field belonged to Mobil. It contained about 17 trillion cubic feet of gas (the equivalent of just under 3 billion barrels of oil) and proved to be highly remunerative: In the decade leading to the Exxon merger, the Arun field accounted for about a fifth of Mobil’s overseas revenue from oil and gas production. The subsidiary that extracted Aceh’s gas and then liquefied it for transportation to Japan and other markets earned $295 million in profits in 1998, $311 million the next year, and $498 million the year after that. The earnings reflected lucrative contracts Mobil had negotiated during the panicked period of the Arab oil embargoes and the early Iranian Revolution, when many energy-importing nations in Asia feared they would not have access to supply at any cost and proved willing to pay relatively high prices for guaranteed long-term deliveries.

“My nightmare is to pick up the New York Times and read that both Nigeria and Indonesia are in flames,” Lou Noto, Mobil’s chairman, told industry colleagues in the late 1990s. Those two countries accounted for a lopsided share of Mobil’s profits; both were wracked by internal rebellions. Noto, therefore, had extra incentive to muddle through the Aceh war. ExxonMobil, under Lee Raymond, was not going to lightly set aside half a billion dollars in annual profit, either, but the merged corporation had more financial flexibility to tell the likes of Abu Jack to go away. The Indonesian government’s position was more like Mobil’s had been—it was dependent on keeping the gas profits flowing. Its take from Aceh was about $1.2 billion in 2000, more than a fifth of the government’s total oil and gas receipts that year, and about 6 percent of its revenues from all sources, before international aid.

To a great extent Aceh’s war had evolved into a contest over who could bargain or shoot his way to control the Arun field’s cash flow. One of the contenders was a former New Yorker named Hasan di Tiro, a charismatic Acehnese nationalist leader to some, and to others, “a quixotic, self-promoting political dabbler prone to hysterics and exaggeration,” as one biographer put it. Di Tiro was a great-grandson of a heroic nineteenth-century anti-Dutch guerrilla fighter. He grew up in unassuming circumstances in Aceh, migrated to Indonesia’s main island of Java to attend law school, and then won a scholarship to the United States in 1950, at the age of twenty-five. He attended Columbia University and later worked in the information department of the Indonesian mission to the United Nations. He made the acquaintance of Edward Lansdale, the Central Intelligence Agency’s legendary Asia hand during the cold war. Di Tiro found himself “circulating in the eddies and backwaters of international diplomacy” in New York.

He absorbed the radical ideas of Marxist-influenced, postcolonial liberation movements that spread worldwide during the 1960s, but he also tried to provide for his family through business ventures back in Indonesia. In 1974, one of Di Tiro’s companies, Doral Inc., bid for a contract to build a pipeline connected to Mobil’s Acehnese gas field; the job went instead to the San Francisco–based Bechtel Corporation. Di Tiro’s opponents later emphasized this commercial setback as a cause of his final radicalization. Di Tiro told a different story: Soon after he lost the pipeline bid, he was flying aboard a private jet when its engines died. He promised himself that if he survived, he would lead a revolution for Acehnese independence. He had reached late middle age and believed that he had “lived long enough,” he told an interviewer. His biographer felt that Di Tiro was describing a “midlife crisis of sorts.”

He founded the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or “Free Aceh Movement,” known as G.A.M. His followers snuck into the province from Malaysia and opened their “armed struggle” in the rain forests and volcanic hills of the rugged Pidie region on October 30, 1976. Di Tiro issued a declaration of independence six weeks later, drawing on his American education: “We, the people of Aceh . . .” he began. His war strategy, he later wrote, was to shut down “foreign oil companies . . . to prevent them from further stealing our oil and gas.” G.A.M. leaflets warned Mobil and Bechtel employees to “pack and leave this country immediately.” Di Tiro organized about three hundred fighters and managed to make contact with Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator; he sought training for his men at Libyan camps. “They have Mobil Oil,” Di Tiro reportedly told Gaddafi, “so you must support us.”

Because Mobil employed nearly three thousand Acehnese directly or by contract, it proved risky for G.A.M. to target the company; job losses would alienate the rebels’ population base. Abu Jack’s extortion demand reflected the murky war that had evolved in reaction to these constraints: Rather than throw Mobil out, G.A.M. sought to access the corporation’s revenues, directly and indirectly. Racketeering had become commonplace on both sides of the conflict.

The violence was sporadic, but it was often most intense around the sprawling, fenced-in Mobil gas facilities. On the north side of Lhokseumawe (the town’s name meant “Everything Deep,” a reference to the swampy terrain in which it sat) stood the factory-size Arun liquefied natural gas (L.N.G.) plant. On the other side of town lay the gas fields themselves, spread out across tens of square miles, intermingled with inhabited villages. A modern gas well is relatively unobtrusive in comparison to an oil well: a chest-high, cylindrical metal structure with no moving parts. Mobil installed these robot-looking creatures in fenced areas with names such as Cluster I and Cluster II.

Point A was the main administrative and engineering headquarters for the gas fields. ExxonMobil compounds worldwide displayed a universal design: yellow security lights, high double fences at the entrance, and just inside (after the post-Valdez safety campaigns evolved) a large billboard declaring “Nobody Gets Hurt.” About 220 expatriate employees—Americans, Australians, Japanese—lived within ExxonMobil’s compounds in Aceh. Around them lay clayroads, rice paddies, grazing fields with a few stray cattle, and tin-roofed village homes.

G.A.M. fielded a few thousand guerrillas; its most sophisticated weapons were semiautomatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The guerrillas taxed and extorted villagers and erected roadblocks to take money and property from passing vehicles. A few miles away from a G.A.M. roadblock constructed from fallen tree trunks, Indonesian soldiers might man their own barrier, peering into cars in search of suspicious-looking young Acehnese men.

Mobil had adapted to the war without ever missing a gas delivery. Early in 2001, however, a stream of extortion letters and phone calls started to arrive at ExxonMobil’s offices. The corporation’s security department, which ran its own intelligence operations in the province, heard “widely divergent rumors,” as a U.S. embassy cable put it, about what lay behind the letters and whether the commander known as Abu Jack was, in fact, responsible: “One source says he’s now in jail and that imposters are making the threats; others say he is a double agent in the employ of the security forces.”

ExxonMobil’s security department had also received reports that Indonesian executives at a partner company had recently paid a $100,000 ransom to win the release of a kidnapped Indonesian-born executive. The alleged payoff had “heightened concern” that rebels might now be encouraged to kidnap someone at ExxonMobil, perhaps an expatriate. To deter G.A.M., ExxonMobil suggested to the U.S. embassy in Jakarta that the corporation take out newspaper advertisements declaring its “refusal to make illicit payments”; the embassy judged, however, that “any effort to publicly defy the G.A.M. . . . is not advisable.”

Abu Jack, or whoever he was, telephoned ExxonMobil once more on the morning of March 9. A large rebel force had gathered to attack the corporation’s gas fields, the caller reported; G.A.M. had ordered villagers in the area to leave. ExxonMobil’s local employees could see that nearby residents were, in fact, leaving. Around the same time, a mortar attack and a roadside pipe-bombing targeted a bus carrying corporate personnel. The evidence suggested to ExxonMobil that G.A.M.—or some faction of the undisciplined rebel movement—had changed its targeting policy to go after the company directly, either to advance its extortion campaign or because senior G.A.M. leaders had quietly decided that ExxonMobil was now an enemy of its rebellion, in a way it had not been seen as before.

Ron Wilson, who was the president of Mobil Oil Indonesia, the subsidiary that managed all of ExxonMobil’s oil and gas operations in the country, decided he could wait no longer. He was accustomed to managing risk on behalf of expatriate and local employees, but he concluded that G.A.M. had now crossed a line. Wilson reported through ExxonMobil’s chain of command ultimately to Harry Longwell, Raymond’s executive vice president for upstream operations on the Management Committee, the corporation’s supreme governing council. Raymond’s judgment about the war he had inherited in Aceh, he recalled, was that “Mobil wasn’t shooting anybody, but obviously the military was going to protect” the gas field, “driven by orders from Jakarta, and Mobil was kind of in the middle of it.” Raymond entrusted the day-to-day decision making to Longwell.

He decided to shut down operations in Aceh. The decision shocked Indonesia—newspapers covered the story under front-page banners. Until the Indonesian government created conditions in which ExxonMobil’s employees felt safe, Ron Wilson and other ExxonMobil spokespeople declared, Jakarta’s billion-dollar annual revenue flow would be turned off.

Robert Gelbard served that winter as the United States ambassador to Indonesia. He was a large, balding, and sometimes combative war-zone diplomat who had served in the Balkans during the Kosovo conflict. He told Ron Wilson that he supported ExxonMobil’s decision. Gelbard’s responsibilities included the safety of American citizens in Indonesia, and he felt the situation in Aceh was becoming “dramatically dangerous,” he said later, and he was “really worried” that some of ExxonMobil’s people “were going to get killed.”

Still, Gelbard wanted to intervene to help restart gas production as soon as possible. Indonesia had embarked only recently on a shaky, unstable democratic transition after decades of military rule. The country’s president, Abdurrahman Wahid, could ill afford the loss of taxes and royalties from ExxonMobil’s Aceh gas fields.

The United States formally rejected G.A.M.’s independence drive and supported Indonesia’s claims of sovereignty over Aceh. G.A.M. leaders nonetheless considered the United States to be friendly to their aspirations because American diplomats advocated autonomy negotiations that would grant Acehnese leaders greater control over local affairs within a united Indonesia. With approval from Washington and the Indonesian government, Gelbard flew to Singapore for a secret meeting with one of G.A.M.’s most senior leaders. Gelbard recalled that he “wanted to be very clear with them: Yes, we like them, but no, we didn’t support independence.” At the same time, Gelbard believed that a military victory was not feasible for either side in the war—only successful autonomy negotiations between Jakarta and G.A.M. could end the violence. Wahid’s democratic government was inclined toward such peace negotiations, but Wahid had attracted opposition from hard-liners in the Indonesian military who wanted to eradicate G.A.M. by force. If Gelbard could restart ExxonMobil’s gas production, he might, among other things, deliver a victory to Jakarta’s beleaguered civilian peace-promoting forces. Gelbard said later that his intervention in the Aceh war had nothing to do with ExxonMobil’s business interests or the profits it produced from the Arun gas fields; he sought to reduce the Aceh conflict’s violence so that Indonesia would have a better chance to move from dictatorship toward democracy.

ExxonMobil could not be precise about what improvements in security would be necessary to persuade the corporation to restart operations in Aceh. “We’ll know it when we see it,” an ExxonMobil executive told one of the ambassador’s colleagues at the embassy.

One way to reassure the corporation would be to persuade G.A.M. to publicly declare that ExxonMobil was off-limits in Aceh’s war. Gelbard thought that the United States should “read the riot act” to G.A.M. about its decision to target ExxonMobil. The ambassador and other senior Bush administration officials decided that spring to embark on an extraordinary campaign to restore ExxonMobil’s Aceh operations, and by doing so relieve pressure on Indonesia’s wobbly elected president. It was unusual for an American administration to negotiate directly with a guerrilla force over its targeting strategies, and even more unusual for it to apply American pressure to remove from insurgent target lists a lucrative field operated by ExxonMobil.

Aceh’s conflict was a dirty war characterized not only by kidnapping and extortion, but also by a brutal campaign carried out by the Indonesian military, a campaign that included torture and summary executions of suspected guerrillas. By aligning itself with ExxonMobil and Indonesia’s government to pressure G.A.M., the Bush administration risked associating itself with the Indonesian military’s tactics. Sections of the military were on ExxonMobil’s payroll to provide security at the perimeter of the Arun fields. These payments to Indonesian soldiers by the corporation were mandated by ExxonMobil’s contract. In return, the corporation’s Indonesian partners agreed to “assist and expedite” ExxonMobil “by providing . . . security protection . . . as may be requested” by the oil company. As a practical matter this meant that the Indonesian government supplied troops from the Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or Indonesian National Army, known as the T.N.I., to protect the gas fields. Under the arrangement, ExxonMobil paid the Indonesian soldiers’ salaries; by the time of the extortion campaign in early 2001, the going rate was about $294 per month for a typical enlisted man. The soldiers were by all accounts—including that of the Bush administration—engaged in appalling human rights violations.

As ExxonMobil prepared to shut down in Aceh, Ambassador Gelbard signed a confidential cable to Washington. He reported his embassy’s judgment that G.A.M. was guilty of “atrocities.” He also described, however, the ongoing crimes of Indonesian security forces that protected ExxonMobil’s gas fields: “The military/police offensive [in Aceh] is resulting in significantly growing human rights abuses. Many civilian corpses bear marks of torture and their hands are tied behind their backs. Neighbors of those later found dead often report that non-Acehnese men in plainclothes kidnapped the victims.” ExxonMobil’s daily operations were fixed in the middle of that dark violence.

The Indonesian military’s brutality in Aceh traced to the authoritarian “New Order” government of Indonesian president Mohammed Suharto, a former general who took power during the 1960s after a violent purge of the Indonesian Communist Party. The United States saw Suharto as a vital link in its anti-Communist strategy in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is an unwieldy archipelago of about seventeen thousand islands spread out over three thousand square miles. Suharto consolidated his power by allowing the military to enrich itself during deployments around the country’s resource-rich islands; he also constructed a tight-knit circle of family and ethnic Chinese business cronies in the capital of Jakarta. To shore up his security alliance with Washington, the president allowed American corporations to enjoy access to Indonesia’s minerals, oil, and gas. Suharto offered mining concessions to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and he delivered to Mobil the large stake in Aceh’s Arun field. (Mobil offered a share of the field to Exxon at the time, but the latter’s upstream executives demurred, to their enduring regret.)

Mobil entered into a production-sharing contract with Indonesia’s P. T. Pertamina, then a state-owned oil company. Under Indonesian law Suharto could name certain “Vital National Objects” that required military protection; in 1983, the Aceh property was so designated. Thousands of T.N.I. soldiers poured into North Sumatra to protect Mobil from the threats and sporadic attacks carried out by G.A.M.

Suharto had tried and failed to win the war in Aceh by force during the 1990s. He declared the province a special military zone. Torture and disappearances became commonplace. The T.N.I. rounded up thousands of young Acehnese men, interred them in camps, and forced them to sing the national anthem as part of their reeducation. According to human rights investigators, army officers set up schemes to profit from their deployments to Aceh—they ran logging operations, marijuana farms, and other rackets.

Security posts and unmarked interrogation houses became the settings for the blackest chapters of Aceh’s conflict during this period. Some of the interrogations took place on Mobil property or very nearby. The T.N.I. units set up posts along the fenced perimeters of the gas fields; the posts were sometimes separated by just a few hundred yards. Two of the most notorious facilities around Mobil’s fields were known as Post A13 and Rancong Camp. A post might consist of a two-story concrete building or just a barbed wire, sandbagged encampment with makeshift sleeping quarters.

One area with a particularly heavy security presence lay toward the south of Lhokseumawe, where pipes gathered gas from scattered wellheads and drew it into trunk lines for transport to the liquefied natural gas plant. A large trunk line ran down a straight, miles-long corridor known as the Pipeline Road. By early 2001, G.A.M. had taken to planting bombs and digging up pipes along the road. The T.N.I. erected security posts at intervals along the Pipeline Road and ran patrols in the area.

During the mid-1990s, Indonesian soldiers and intelligence officers arrested a number of G.A.M. leaders, including Sofyan Daoud, at the Lhokseumawe port, as they returned from exile in Malaysia. “They were taken to the Mobil facility for interrogation,” according to Ifdhal Kasim, the chairman of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission, which collected evidence about the case. There were more than twenty detainees and “they were tortured at that complex,” according to Kasim. “There was all sorts of torture by the soldiers.” Over the years, hundreds of young men arrested in the vicinity of the Mobil gas fields disappeared, according to Acehnese separatist activists and independent human rights investigators. Acehnese villagers assumed that the missing men had been killed in custody and had probably been buried near the T.N.I.’s security posts.

Only after Suharto’s regime cracked and collapsed under pressure from democracy campaigners in May 1998 did it prove possible to investigate past abuses. That summer human rights researchers interviewed villagers around the Mobil gas fields, documented the names of missing young men, and, guided by informants, dug in the ground for evidence. B. N. Marbun, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, estimated that at least two thousand Acehnese torture victims lay buried in secret graves. He and other investigators identified a dozen such locations and found remains in six of them; in one grave, in the village of Bukit Sentang, they dug up at least a dozen bodies.

On October 10, 1998, a coalition of seventeen Indonesian human rights groups issued a statement alleging that Mobil Oil “provided crucial logistic support to the army, including earth-moving equipment that was used to dig mass graves” to bury Aceh’s torture victims and missing young men. BusinessWeek published a cover story two months later under the headline, “What Did Mobil Know?”

The oil company’s executives told the magazine that the answer was, essentially, “nothing.” Their employees had occasionally loaned the Indonesian army heavy equipment such as excavators during the New Order years, but only for “peaceful purposes.” The Mobil executives said they believed their equipment had been used to build roads.

These human rights allegations had surfaced just as Lee Raymond and Lou Noto entered into their final talks about merging Exxon and Mobil. Noto flew hurriedly to Jakarta. He met with Gelbard’s predecessor as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, J. Stapleton Roy, who “expressed concern” about the issue. Noto said that Mobil was unaware of any abuses by T.N.I. soldiers guarding its facilities and did not know anything about its bulldozers being used to dig graves. He flew back and appeared with Raymond in New York on December 1 to announce their merger deal.

Along the Pipeline Road and around the gas fields Indonesian human rights researchers continued to dig for corpses.

The Clinton administration cut off aid to the Indonesian military and suspended training contacts because of the human rights abuses committed by the T.N.I. Many of the abuses that concerned the administration took place in East Timor, another disputed province of Indonesia, where the T.N.I. sought, unsuccessfully, in 1999, to prevent a separatist-minded population from voting for independence in a United Nations–sponsored referendum. East Timor’s history and status under international law made it a special case; G.A.M.’s independence drive in Aceh enjoyed none of the same U.N.–sanctioned legitimacy. Isolated and embittered after losing East Timor, the T.N.I.’s commanders redoubled their focus on suppressing the rebellion in Aceh. Mobil still paid the salaries of T.N.I. soldiers and officers deployed to protect its fields, despite the official American sanctions over human rights abuses. Legally, Mobil was a subsidiary partner of the Indonesian state oil company in Aceh, and the security payments were one of its contractual commitments. Agus Widjojo, a serving Indonesian general at the time, recalled that his colleagues in the military’s high command felt “confusion and ambivalence” about Aceh’s rebellion as democracy took hold in their country. Indonesia seemed fragile and beset by centrifugal forces; the generals regarded themselves as the last guardians of national integrity.

In 2000, Indonesian security forces “were responsible for numerous instances of, at times indiscriminate, shooting of civilians, torture, rape, beatings and other abuse, and arbitrary detention in Aceh” and elsewhere, the U.S. State Department reported. “Army forces, police, and G.A.M. members committed numerous extrajudicial killings.” The U.S. embassy in Jakarta did not regard Mobil as culpable, however. Its diplomats accepted the corporation’s account of itself: “The companies are unable to control military/police actions, including the use of equipment, that may result in human rights abuses,” a cable to Washington reported. “Mobil faces this dilemma in Aceh.”

Private profit-making companies had been waging war independent of their home country governments since at least the days of the East India Company and the colonization of the Americas in the eighteenth century. The idea that such corporations had a legal or moral duty to refrain from facilitating organized violence in their areas of operations was more recent. During the nineteenth century, Quaker ethical movements and antislavery campaigners in the United States and Great Britain, among other places, presaged the ideas that were lumped, toward the end of the twentieth century, under the rubric of “corporate social responsibility.” The 1970s brought an expansion of popular and political campaigns to codify corporate conduct for the sake of the public interest. By 2001, reports of human rights abuses carried out by military forces protecting oil and gas operations in Colombia and Nigeria—as well as the questions raised about Mobil’s complicity in Aceh’s violence—had given birth to a formal compact, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, cosponsored by the Clinton administration and Tony Blair’s Labor Party–led government in Great Britain.

The compact, as its title indicated, was not binding. It advocated that oil companies undertake human rights risk assessments when they worked in violence-prone regions; communicate their human rights values to host armies that protected their facilities; avoid working with “individuals credibly implicated in human rights abuses”; and permit the use of force “only when strictly necessary and to an extent proportional to the threat.” The companies should also “to the extent reasonable, monitor the use of equipment provided by the Company and to investigate properly situations in which such equipment is used in an inappropriate manner.” The language suggested a corporate version of the Rules of Engagement guidance typically issued by the White House to the Pentagon in wartime.

Chevron, Shell, British Petroleum, Conoco, and a number of mining companies signed the agreement. Lee Raymond refused. “Exxon just didn’t see the relevance to them,” recalled Arvind Ganesan, a Human Rights Watch lawyer who participated in the negotiations. “They just disengaged.” There was some skepticism among the corporation’s decision makers about whether the initiative would outlast the expiring Clinton administration, and in any event, ExxonMobil did not habitually join political compacts initiated by outsiders; it wrote its own rules worldwide. ExxonMobil’s place in the Aceh conflict created legal and reputational risks that adherence to the Voluntary Principles could help reduce, but the corporation was convinced that it could handle those risks. Particularly during the first Bush term, ExxonMobil displayed unilateralism in its foreign and security policies. “We don’t sign on to other people’s principles,” an executive later explained. The corporation said it would monitor the accord, perhaps to reevaluate later.

ExxonMobil’s security team was aware of the T.N.I.’s human rights record, internal corporate documents show. An ExxonMobil e-mail acknowledged “the poor reputation of the Indonesian military, especially in the area of respecting human rights and in their predilection for ‘rogue’/clandestine operations.” Another internal report found that the Indonesian soldiers around the Aceh gas fields “were undisciplined, lacked professional deportment and were not in any state of readiness.” As a third internal assessment put it:


Local security forces [are] ineffectual and often present as great a threat as the activists. The military presence is a double-edged sword, with some military personnel acting as information brokers, thieves, extortionists and intimidators.


There was no evidence that ExxonMobil’s security advisers encouraged or participated in the T.N.I.’s torture and extrajudicial killing in Aceh. Exactly how the corporation handled from day to day its knowledge that such human rights abuses were taking place is not clear. Because of the Indonesian military’s political power and the sensitivities surrounding the conflict, neither Indonesia’s government nor independent human rights investigators could interview or examine the records of the T.N.I. units that worked in partnership with ExxonMobil or, before it, Mobil Oil. Evidence trails faded as the years passed.

Within ExxonMobil, responsibility for assessing Aceh’s violence and managing relations with the Indonesian military fell to the Global Security department. Global Security’s roster of overseas employees and contractors conjured the lineup of a Hollywood action film: former K.G.B. officers, veterans of the British Special Air Service and French special forces, and retired officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States military.

At the time of the Mobil merger, Lee Raymond elevated Mike Farmer, a career corporate security professional, to lead Global Security. Under Farmer, the Aceh case fell to Tommy Chong, who had a background in Singapore law enforcement; he ran ExxonMobil’s Southeast Asian security operations out of an office in his native country.

ExxonMobil’s executives understood the reputational and other risks they bore. Aceh had witnessed a “complete breakdown of law and order,” Robert Haines, an international relations manager in Washington, wrote in a memo to his superiors on December 13, 1999. Haines emerged as an important adviser to ExxonMobil on its Aceh problem after the merger. He was a West Point graduate who had commanded an armored cavalry troop in Vietnam, leading rural sweep operations near Da Nang. After that tour, he resigned his commission and entered law school; a long career in Mobil’s office of general counsel had led him eventually to Fairfax, Virginia, where he headed up the international section of the corporation’s public affairs office at the time of the merger. He was one of the few Mobil hands in Washington that Exxon kept on. His Vietnam experience had equipped him to assess Aceh: The presence of Indonesian troops around the gas fields “only serves to inflame the population and results in suspicions that [ExxonMobil] is linked to the military,” he wrote.

In the spring of 2000, after the merger closed, ExxonMobil Global Security concluded that it could use some fresh eyes on its Aceh problem. Mike Farmer assigned John Alan Connor, an Arabic-speaking retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who had served as a Special Forces officer with the Green Berets and worked extensively in the Middle East, to the Indonesia security team. Connor had joined Exxon after leaving the U.S. Army. (There was a sizable contingent of former military men at the corporation.) In Yemen he had successfully negotiated truces with tribal sheiks around Exxon’s oil fields, and in Africa he had helped scope out security for oil field operations in areas prone to insurgency. Farmer asked Connor to undertake a “risk assessment” of ExxonMobil’s position in Aceh.

Connor looked at how Indonesian soldiers used and misused ExxonMobil equipment. He found that T.N.I. soldiers occasionally approached Indonesian-born employees to demand a bulldozer or dump truck, according to accounts of his study that circulated within ExxonMobil. If the employee refused, he might be beaten up or threatened. Connor’s assessment found “nothing as dramatic as mass graves dug with ExxonMobil equipment,” according to a person familiar with the internal reporting. The review did document cases of equipment being hijacked by Indonesian soldiers for unknown purposes in the midst of a conflict rife with abuses. This sort of strong-arming of ExxonMobil equipment by local security forces was a chronic problem for the company worldwide, particularly in Africa. Such “borrowing” by local security forces posed legal risks to the corporation. Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the American antibribery statute, there were limitations to what equipment or services ExxonMobil could provide to host governments and militaries without charging market prices. Each time the T.N.I. demanded a free ride on one of ExxonMobil’s corporate airplanes or asked to “borrow” a truck, the request had to be reviewed by the corporation’s lawyers—who often turned down the requests. In Indonesia, this had left T.N.I. officers frustrated and even more inclined than before to take what they wanted at gunpoint. ExxonMobil told its local employees not to sacrifice their “physical safety” if threatened, but if possible to resist demands by soldiers to take equipment and to call for help.

High-level executives reviewed the assessments of the corporation’s relationship with the Indonesian military. Farmer forwarded a report entitled “Indonesia Strategic Security Study” to ExxonMobil vice president Lance Johnson, noting that it “identifies a range of critical tasks that must be completed quickly . . . to respond to ongoing and potential security concerns.” A second internal report concluded that it would be necessary to enforce “uncompromising controls across the board.”

Connor stayed on in Aceh to support the security mission. He and other Exxon security officers—some permanently stationed in the province, others rotating in and out—tried to develop close working relationships with the Indonesian army battalion and company commanders deployed around the gas fields. The corporation’s security executives felt it was “ludicrous” to think that ExxonMobil should be held responsible for T.N.I. brutality or the use of excavation equipment outside of their control. Yet there could be little doubt that ExxonMobil exercised some authority over the T.N.I. soldiers assigned to its Acehnese fields. ExxonMobil’s contract, for example, gave the corporation the right to influence the Indonesian forces’ “deployment logistics,” and it “assisted in the management of security affairs” with the T.N.I.

As Mike Farmer recalled it, ExxonMobil’s corporate security officers on-site would take “business requirements to the military and say, ‘This is what we’d like to do over the next week or over the next ten days—can you take the appropriate steps to make sure that that’s done.’” For example, the corporation might be starting up gas wells in a certain field or might be moving employees in a convoy, and it would ask the T.N.I. to deploy support. A typical written instruction from Tommy Chong carried the subject heading “Deployment of Military Resources” and began, “We have revised the deployment logistics of the new military resources as follows: POINT A: 40 soldiers inclusive of 15 to handle military escorts for employee travels. . . .” Another internal document made explicit ExxonMobil’s authority over the T.N.I. units it paid. It carried the heading “Increase in Military Deployment” and instructed that the Indonesian army be asked to confirm that ExxonMobil “has the right to influence the security plan.”

The Global Security department sought to reduce the risk that Indonesian soldiers would engage in abuses by requesting that the soldiers refrain from sweep or offensive operations. Yet the corporation endorsed the Indonesian army’s and police’s plans to construct a layered defense around the Mobil property, including a forward perimeter of security posts, to catch G.A.M. guerrillas as they tried to approach. In effect, this defensive system created an infrastructure of patrolling and interrogation on and adjacent to Mobil’s fields. ExxonMobil urged the T.N.I. units in Aceh to be “defensive, not offensive,” according to an individual involved, as “nobody wanted to have any sort of cloud over our operations.” The Indonesian military units “were supposedly in static defensive positions that would go out roughly five kilometers on each side to prevent direct or indirect fire from coming at us.”

Inevitably, even defensive patrolling would involve detentions and interrogations of G.A.M. suspects. Published human rights reports—including by the U.S. government—made clear that the questioning of guerrilla suspects by Indonesian officers was not likely to be polite. Yet as late as 2003, ExxonMobil had no written internal codes or guidelines for the use of force that could be handed out to soldiers or police protecting the corporation’s property, according to statements made by ExxonMobil executives to American officials in another country with mounting security problems, Nigeria. Even if ExxonMobil did not like the Voluntary Principles, there were other international standards for police conduct. These included the United Nations Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and the United Nations Guidelines on Use of Force. The International Committee of the Red Cross also published standards for the appropriate use of minimal force by police. Royal Dutch Shell, which had already confronted allegations arising from police and military excesses in defense of its oil properties in Africa, had developed “Rules for Guidance in the Use of Firearms by the Police,” which it wrote down on two-sided laminated cards and handed out to personnel assigned to defend its properties. ExxonMobil resisted writing down any such rules. American lawyers advised their international oil clients that “such a formal move could expose the company to undue liabilities,” according to a State Department account.

The constraints ExxonMobil sought to impose on the T.N.I. were therefore conveyed informally. In private meetings, ExxonMobil’s security officers told their Indonesian counterparts, “We couldn’t operate without you guys, we recognize the sacrifice you’re making and we respect the professionalism—and no human rights issues.”

These lectures on human rights reached “the point of being a cliché,” recalled an individual involved. “The instruction we got was, ‘Do not look like you’re aiding or abetting the Army in any way,’” recalled a second individual involved. The Indonesian army officers sometimes resented the lectures they received. Some of the Indonesian officers battling G.A.M. made clear to their ExxonMobil liaisons that they thought the Americans were out of their depth.

Gusty winds blew a cold rain across Washington on March 12, 2001. Alwi Shihab, Indonesia’s foreign minister, an Islamic scholar with a doctoral degree in religious studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, arrived by limousine at the State Department. He entered under a canopy and ascended to the ornate seventh-floor office occupied by Colin Powell, his counterpart in the Bush administration.

After an exchange of pleasantries, Shihab raised the conundrums of Aceh’s war. G.A.M.’s threats against ExxonMobil amounted to “blackmail,” the foreign minister told Powell. He hoped investments by American corporations in Indonesia would lead the new administration to support his government. “With $38 billion at stake in Indonesia, the United States would not want to see the country disintegrate.”

President Wahid’s government would be grateful for American backing in the effort to calm Aceh’s violence, he continued, “not in terms of public intervention,” but through private messages to G.A.M. that might have “great weight on the other side.” As in the Middle East, the United States had the leverage in Aceh to force the two sides to negotiate, Shihab believed. His government was willing to give the Acehnese “everything short of independence,” he said.

Powell said that if the Indonesian military abused civilians in Aceh, it could cause “the greatest harm” to the country’s relationship with the Bush administration. It was critical that the Indonesian military apply only that force that was “reasonable and necessary to the task,” he said. The secretary made clear, however, that he had taken note of Shihab’s message that there might be a role for the United States to “send signals to the other side” in Aceh’s war.

ExxonMobil’s gas operations in Aceh had now become embedded in U.S. diplomatic and intelligence priorities in Indonesia. The Bush administration sought, overall, to support Indonesia’s fragile democracy, improve civilian control over the military, stanch human rights violations, and suppress Islamist radicals—goals that sometimes competed with one another, because the Indonesian military was at once a potential source of stability and instability. ExxonMobil seemed to be both part of the problem and part of the solution in Aceh. On the one hand, its gas production seemed to provoke and exacerbate guerrilla violence, and that violence encouraged abuses by the military. Yet the revenue ExxonMobil’s gas sales provided Jakarta was critical to the country’s young democracy. The Bush administration found itself simultaneously under pressure from ExxonMobil to do something about the deteriorating Aceh war and from the Indonesian government to do something about ExxonMobil’s unwillingness to operate amid guerrilla violence. The corporation’s decision to shut down gas production that spring had provoked an outcry in Indonesia’s parliament. Politicians threatened to nationalize the gas fields; they summoned Ron Wilson, the ExxonMobil country manager, to a parliamentary hearing to explain the corporation’s decision to suspend production. Other politicians spoke darkly about American conspiracies to undermine Indonesia’s fragile democratic government; some accused Gelbard of forcing ExxonMobil to close down.

That accusation so aggravated the ambassador that he shot off letters to local newspapers refuting the charge. The decision to cease production had been ExxonMobil’s alone, he wrote, although the corporation enjoyed the support of the U.S. government. In Washington, Robert Haines met repeatedly with frontline Bush administration officials in charge of Indonesia policy at the National Security Council and the State Department—Karen Brooks at the N.S.C. and Ralph “Skip” Boyce at State. The corporation’s message, crafted by an informal Indonesia crisis committee that included Haines and senior executives in Houston and Irving, was that only the United States could resolve the Aceh war by brokering some sort of agreement between Jakarta and G.A.M. Haines also made clear that G.A.M.’s decision to target ExxonMobil directly was a new factor in the corporation’s experience of the war, that it placed ExxonMobil personnel at risk, and that this was the reason they had shut down their operations. “You really need to get in there and do something,” Haines told Bush administration officials. ExxonMobil did not have a specific blueprint or plan of action, but like Indonesia’s foreign minister, the corporation felt that only the United States government had the necessary leverage on both sides of the war. “We are not diplomats, but we do know this is a problem and you are the guys that can do it,” Haines said.

ExxonMobil refused to negotiate with G.A.M. Its Acehnese employees included many G.A.M. sympathizers and probably a few formal members. Some of these local employees urged cooperation with G.A.M., but the corporation’s executives in the United States concluded that their contractual and political position with the Indonesian government required them to be careful. ExxonMobil’s position was that G.A.M. was an illegal armed group, and therefore the corporation would have no direct dealings with its leaders. What the Bush administration might do was another matter.

Ambassador Gelbard arranged a meeting for ExxonMobil at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which was headed by Luhut Panjaitan, a retired four-star general. Ron Wilson arrived with Gelbard and other embassy officers at the ministry’s headquarters, located on a riverbank beside one of congested Jakarta’s major highways.

It had not been a single event, Wilson explained to the Indonesian officials, but an accumulation of threats and near misses that had led to ExxonMobil’s decision to shut down Aceh’s gas operations. Snipers had fired upon ExxonMobil airplanes and had wounded employees, Wilson said. Hijackers had stolen more than fifty company vehicles. Assailants had bombed four company convoys by remote control.

“ExxonMobil has had an Indonesian presence for one hundred years,” Wilson said. The company had shipped more than five thousand liquefied natural gas cargoes without missing a single one until now. It was in Indonesia for the long run and had made its decision to suspend production reluctantly. The safety of its employees was paramount, however.

Panjaitan explained that Indonesia intended to restore security in Aceh by launching a “limited offensive” against G.A.M. New battalions of Indonesian forces were arriving around Lhokseumawe as they spoke.

Wilson chose his words carefully. “I understand how difficult it is to restore peace,” he said. “I appreciate that the military is preparing to carry out operations in a careful, selected way. As a company, ExxonMobil cannot condone human rights abuses. The whole world is watching events in Aceh. Charges of human rights abuses could cripple efforts to resume operations.”

Wilson emphasized that his corporation had never paid money to G.A.M., despite the demands of Abu Jack and other commanders. Payoffs would only aggravate the situation and lead to more extortion, he said.

ExxonMobil was not demanding that Indonesia’s government reduce the risk faced by its employees in Aceh to zero, Wilson declared as the meeting concluded. But the corporation’s employees had to “feel safe traveling by road and assured that the workplace was not likely to come under mortar attack, or that they might be kidnapped.”

After the meeting with Panjaitan, the Indonesian government continued to try to persuade Wilson that it could meet his standards. Purnomo Yusgiantoro, the energy minister, called Wilson and suggested they fly into Aceh on a government plane to tour the area, so that the ExxonMobil manager could see that order was being restored and that it was safe enough to resume production.

Wilson called Gelbard and asked if he should accept Yusgiantoro’s invitation.

“Don’t be insane,” the ambassador advised. “Don’t go.”

The minister went anyway, alone, and G.A.M. rebels shot at his plane.

During the first week of April 2001, Ambassador Gelbard flew to Banda Aceh, the seaside provincial capital, a flat and humid expanse of low-slung, water-streaked concrete buildings shaded by palm trees. A Swiss peacemaking organization, then known as the Henry Dunant Centre, maintained a local forum for on-again, off-again talks between Indonesian and G.A.M. representatives. Gelbard scheduled separate meetings with leaders on each side of the conflict. He raised the subject of human rights with Indonesia’s government delegation: G.A.M. certainly committed abuses, Gelbard told them, but the international community holds democratically elected governments to higher standards than guerrilla groups.

ExxonMobil had no covert agenda in closing its Aceh operations, Gelbard said. The corporation had been entirely justified in its concerns about security; the United States supported ExxonMobil’s decision but had not instigated it.

The ambassador became more forceful when the G.A.M. delegation arrived. “G.A.M. is clearly responsible for the attacks on ExxonMobil,” Gelbard announced. “Some G.A.M. leaders are now even boasting about shutting down ExxonMobil.” He said that Hasan di Tiro had promised in private meetings with Clinton administration officials that he would issue a public statement that ExxonMobil was not a target of the guerrilla campaign; he had never done so. G.A.M.’s attacks on the oil company now were a “major mistake,” Gelbard declared.

The United States would not tolerate terrorism against U.S. citizens and economic interests. G.A.M. had been “very lucky” that no American citizens working for ExxonMobil had been killed thus far. Even so, he warned, there would be “severe consequences” if G.A.M. did not stop the attacks immediately. The Bush administration had so far refrained from naming G.A.M. a terrorist organization under American law. A terrorist designation would mean travel and banking restrictions for G.A.M. leaders. The administration might reconsider that decision, unless the assaults on ExxonMobil property and interests ended. Moreover, the United States received many requests from the Indonesian military and police for help in fighting against G.A.M.—intelligence, training, and equipment.

“Do you really want us as an enemy?” Gelbard asked.

The G.A.M. representatives acknowledged responsibility for the attacks on ExxonMobil. They said that Indonesian troops guarding the gas fields were fair military targets. The troops used ExxonMobil property as a “sanctuary” from which to launch raids into nearby villages. Therefore, in their analysis, ExxonMobil facilitated the killing of Acehnese.

G.A.M. leaders said years later that they felt increasingly agitated at the time by ExxonMobil’s possible complicity in extrajudicial killings of their cadres. The corpses unearthed along the Pipeline Road and elsewhere late in 1998 legitimized ExxonMobil as a target, they said. The corporation “seemed to support the Indonesian government,” recalled Nordin Abdul Rahman, one of G.A.M.’s political leaders. “People concluded that ExxonMobil provided heavy equipment for the burials.” Not only was “ExxonMobil land used for mass graves,” said Munawar Zainal, a G.A.M. student leader and occasional representative of the movement in Washington, but “they gave the Indonesian security forces money. This to us was unacceptable.” Gelbard, for his part, felt that ExxonMobil had “behaved very responsibly and very sensibly,” as he put it later. He regarded the corporation’s dilemma as a “textbook example” of “a dangerous situation when a U.S. energy company behaved very well.”

At the Banda Aceh meeting, Gelbard told G.A.M. that its guerrillas had mounted attacks on ExxonMobil’s civilian housing, employee buses, and other targets clearly unconnected to the Indonesian military. This had to end.

The ambassador flew back to Jakarta, but the Bush administration’s campaign to coerce G.A.M. to stop targeting ExxonMobil continued. On April 23, Skip Boyce arrived in Banda Aceh from Washington; Boyce was a career foreign service officer who now ran the East Asia and Pacific portfolio out of Foggy Bottom. The envoy met Indonesian officials and assured them that the United States opposed Acehnese independence, but he urged negotiations that would address the legitimate grievances of the Acehnese.

“We are deeply concerned by attacks on ExxonMobil facilities in Aceh,” Boyce said. He warned against cracking down on G.A.M. now that the American oil corporation had withdrawn: “The closure of ExxonMobil should not be a pretext for launching a military offensive, which would only worsen the security situation.”

He also took up G.A.M.’s concerns about the offensive operations waged by Indonesian forces from inside the corporation’s property. Indonesian forces guarding ExxonMobil’s fields “should not perform any other mission—specifically, they should not sweep or raid neighboring villages, which only exacerbates the violence,” Boyce said.

When the envoy met with G.A.M.’s leaders, he reinforced Gelbard’s earlier warning: Attacks on ExxonMobil “risked turning the U.S. into G.A.M.’s enemy.” The separatist guerrillas would want to “consider carefully before making an enemy of a superpower like the U.S.”

Hasan di Tiro and several of his top political aides had found asylum in Sweden. The Bush administration pressed its warnings further, through the Swedish foreign ministry, two weeks later. A Swedish official met with two senior aides to Di Tiro, Zaini Abdullah and Malik Mahmud, and told them that attacks on ExxonMobil had become “self-defeating” and should be stopped. The G.A.M. men stated that it was not their policy to attack foreign property. As to the wider war in Aceh, they believed it was the T.N.I. that was defeating itself: Human rights abuses by the Indonesian military against Acehnese civilians would soon produce international sympathy for G.A.M. and its cause.

Indonesian security forces killed Abu Jack in an operation in Aceh on June 4. By then G.A.M.’s leaders seemed to be wavering about ExxonMobil. Boyce sought an audience with Di Tiro and Mahmud on June 15 and repeated his warnings.

The telephone rang in ExxonMobil’s office in Aceh in late June. The caller claimed to be a lieutenant of G.A.M.’s senior military commander on the ground in Aceh, Abdul Syafie. The guerrilla movement had received orders “from Sweden,” the caller reported, not to attack ExxonMobil facilities anymore. The corporation could return to gas production without fear.

Ron Wilson conveyed to the U.S. embassy that production would resume soon—probably in July. The disruption to Mobil’s operations had come to an end, due in part to the Bush administration’s quiet threats to designate G.A.M. leaders as terrorists. The loss of revenue had lasted about five months.

Robert Gelbard and his colleagues could not in the end protect President Wahid and those around him who favored peace talks in Aceh. A political crisis, stirred by hard-liners in the Indonesian army, gathered in the parliament. In July, as ExxonMobil moved in expatriate engineers to check valves on the Aceh wells and restart gas production, Wahid fell from power. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the third president of Indonesia since Suharto’s fall, succeeded him. She was close to the T.N.I. That month she declared martial law and ordered thousands more soldiers into Aceh to defeat G.A.M. once and for all by military force.

As the new troops arrived that August, ExxonMobil officials met with the U.S. embassy to provide an update on their security regime. Gas production was ramping up again; revenues were flowing. The executives “expressed satisfaction with current levels of security,” the embassy’s reporting officer informed Washington. “The military had changed its operations from one of passively occupying [ExxonMobil’s] facilities to providing a secure perimeter. About 3,000–5,000 soldiers, a large increase from last year, were patrolling an area out to five kilometers. . . . The military had also more than tripled the stationary posts along the Pipeline Road. The improved security had netted individuals attempting to infiltrate bombs.” Yet even under renewed military pressure, G.A.M. for the most part refrained from turning its guns back on ExxonMobil. The Bush administration had made clear that the consequences of such targeting could be grave.

G.A.M.’s international lobbying activities were, at best, ad hoc. Acehnese students scattered around the world, inflamed by the violence in their homeland, organized chapters and agitated for attention. From Sweden, Hasan di Tiro and his aides ran a makeshift political and communications campaign. In Gelbard’s judgment, they showed “no realistic attitude or skillful diplomatic strategy” and apparently preferred “the morally repugnant and totally flawed position that ‘losing is winning,’ i.e., less dialogue and more . . . violence and atrocities might win international sympathy.”

G.A.M.-aligned students won visas to study in the United States or were resettled there as refugees; one cluster of younger refugees lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about two hours’ drive northwest from Washington. That group took advantage of its proximity to the capital to try to win appointments with anyone who would listen to them. They had few allies.

In 2001, an Acehnese student activist named Faisal knocked “out of the blue” on the Dupont Circle door of Terry Collingsworth’s office. Collingsworth was then general counsel of the International Labor Rights Forum, a nonprofit that campaigned against child labor and sweatshops in developing countries. Collingsworth belonged to a network of American human rights lawyers who employed novel legal arguments and a previously obscure eighteenth-century law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, to sue corporations, individuals, and governments for civil damages arising from human rights atrocities overseas. In 1997, he had supported a lawsuit, Doe v. Unocal, in which thirteen Burmese villagers asserted that they had been forced at gunpoint by the Burmese military to build a pipeline for Union Oil Company of California.

One of Collingsworth’s assistants, who happened to speak the Indonesian language of Bahasa, took the meeting. Faisal, it turned out, had heard of the Unocal lawsuit and explained that “he had a case just like it, involving Exxon,” Collingsworth recalled being told. The lawyer flew to Aceh within two weeks. Traveling secretly with local activists, Collingsworth snuck into the villages on the edges of the Indonesian military’s defensive perimeter around Lhokseumawe and took notes during interviews with victims and witnesses.

That June, just as Robert Gelbard succeeded in his unpublicized campaign to persuade G.A.M. not to target ExxonMobil any longer, Collingsworth and his colleagues filed John Doe I et al. v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al. in United States District Court in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit drew upon the allegations of eleven Acehnese villagers, whose names were withheld to protect them from T.N.I. reprisals. The Acehnese plaintiffs lived in the vicinity of the ExxonMobil gas fields. Plaintiff John Doe I alleged that in January 2001, “while riding his bicycle cart to the local market to sell his vegetables, he was accosted by soldiers who were assigned to ExxonMobil’s T.N.I. Unit 113. The soldiers shot him in the wrist, threw a hand grenade at him and then left him for dead.” John Doe II alleged that soldiers from the same unit beat him, took him to Rancong Camp near the gas fields, and “detained and tortured him there for a period of three months, all the while keeping him blindfolded.” Later the soldiers removed his blindfold, took him outside, and showed him “a large pit where there was a large pile of human heads. The soldiers threatened to kill him and add his head to the pile.”

Lee Raymond still owned Aceh’s deteriorating war—and after Collingsworth’s lawsuit, its potential legal liabilities as well. Notwithstanding its posture of independence and self-sufficiency in Washington, ExxonMobil had required the Bush administration to sort out G.A.M., and it would soon lobby the administration vigorously to quash Collingsworth’s case. In a pinch, the corporation did not hesitate to seek and accept direct help from the United States. Managing civil violence in remote, complex countries would not prove to be one of ExxonMobil’s notable competencies. Yet beyond Aceh, ExxonMobil’s portfolio of risk-producing small wars would only grow.

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